LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called Tuesday for a plan to help individuals charged with minor cannabis violations get their convictions reduced or dismissed, pointing to disproportionate enforcement against minorities.
Previewing a motion he plans to bring to the full Board of Supervisors next week, Ridley-Thomas said the war on drugs has created intergenerational harm to certain communities.
“Disproportionate enforcement impacts African-American and Latino communities in particular, resulting in higher rates of arrest, and more severe charges and sentences, which in turn compounds barriers to employment, housing, financial assistance, and deepening social, communal and economic disparities,” Ridley-Thomas said in his motion.
Under Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis, certain convictions qualify for reduction or dismissal, including the destruction of court records for young offenders.
But many people don’t realize that they are eligible or can’t easily contend with a cumbersome process, according to the supervisor, who estimated that as many as 1 million people may qualify statewide.
The motion also seeks to ensure that disproportionate enforcement ends with legalization, despite a poor track record in other states.
After Alaska legalized marijuana, black residents were still arrested at a rate about 10 times higher than white residents, Ridley-Thomas said. In Washington, D.C., the ratio was approximately 4-to-1, and in Colorado, 3-to-1, he said.
“It is important to ensure there is equity in the enforcement of cannabis-related offenses going forward, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Ridley-Thomas said.
He plans to ask for his colleagues’ support in asking the county’s Office of Cannabis Management to sit down with county law enforcement agencies and attorneys to develop a strategic plan.
The county has not yet approved a set of recommendations drafted by the Office of Cannabis Management for implementing legalization, which took effect statewide Jan. 1. Cannabis businesses remain prohibited by county ordinance, which covers all unincorporated areas.